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Red tape and competition in NHS is 'hindering care', warn doctors


Doctors have been crippled by wasteful bureaucracy and private-sector style competition within the NHS, and feel increasingly powerless to improve the health service, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned.

A survey of 1,000 BMA members found that two thirds of doctors had attempted to improve care for patients, but been hindered by red tape, as well as time and money constraints. One third said that the NHS needed to free itself from target-driven competition between Trusts, if it is to survive in its current form.

The BMA’s annual representative meeting begins today amid multiple crises for the health service as it approaches its 65 anniversary. Senior executives face questions over one of the biggest cover ups in the NHS’ history, over the deaths of babies at a Cumbria hospital; A&E waiting times have hit nine-year highs and experts are warning that that the health service is ill-equipped to cope with the health demands of an ageing population. 

The UK-wide Omnibus survey assessed current attitudes among doctors, who have been given an expanded role in care commissioning under the Coalition’s health reforms. However, two thirds said they feel less empowered than they did a year ago and the vast majority – 81 per cent – said their work pressures were high or very high.

“It is a grave cause for concern that those who wanted to make improvements to patient services feel there are barriers prohibiting that,” said Dr Mark Porter, chair of the BMA Council. “…if the NHS is to survive another 65 years there must be a clear recognition that we are reaching boiling point with patient demand. There must also be a greater focus on integrating health and social care, rather than the continuing obsession of having a competitive market in health.”